Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Writing in the Third Entity

OK, it's weird enough that the NYT hired a dangerous propagandist and one of its biggest critics, but it's even weirder for it to announce that a new op-ed columnist has been added to its stable by writing a piece that was authored by "The New York Times" in which one finds it written in the third "person" that The New York Times announced this, and in the process The New York Times also announces this. I think my head hurts. At any rate, I scarcely believe that there's a worker at The New York Times named The New York Times who both hired Bill and typed up the article. Why can't a real person be credited with typing the piece and quote a real person who really made the decision to hire Bill?

It's like me writing:

"Freedom from Blog adds an Op-Ed Columnist"
By Freedom from Blog

A new op-ed columnist named Bill was hired today for Freedom from Blog, Freedom from Blog announced. Bill has been a fierce critic of Freedom from Blog and said it should be thrown in an oversees CIA black site and water-boarded for pointing out that President Bush's conduct of the War on Terror has been extra-constitutional.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Speaking of Road Games

Heading out for the holidays today, back in eight days. I hope to post some from the road--I'm sure I can keep up the blistering pace of late.

But for this morning, here's a link to an interesting story about our feline friends. Seems they're good at catching rodents--and scaring them away.

Keep warm, have a merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Cold Weather" Teams

This post is several days late, but what the hell? Since JAX beat Pittsburgh, at PIT, in the snow last week, there's been a fair amount of talk about "cold weather" teams. But this is an anachronism, no? I mean, does anyone believe that the Browns, or the Bills, or the Steelers practice outside in cold weather? Don't all these teams have indoor practice facilities that they use when the temperature outside drops below a certain point?

I guess my point is that there used to be "cold weather" teams. But I am highly skeptical that the Packers are more acclimated to cold weather, in game conditions, than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Today. And don't tell me that it's experience playing in cold weather. Other than Favre and Driver, which Packer players have that much experience actually playing in below freezing conditions?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jonah's Whale Tale

What to say about the babbling absurdities of the new Jonah Goldberg book? To critique its "substance" (a word that can only be used in the loosest sense) would in itself be to give it too much credit. Classic up-is-down-ism. Or is that left-is-right-ism?

There is a sense, however, in which the book will be wildly successful, thanks to its very stupidity. By accusing liberals and progressives of being literal "fascists," Goldberg inoculates conservatives from the very same charge, a charge that in their case is not inapt. Now, what happens if someone points out the rather obvious facts that (a) "conservatism" is, in principle, a philosophy of limited government, rule of law, fiscal restraint, legislative supremacy, divided power, small government, deference to precedent, and "realist" restraint in both foreign and domestic policy, while (b) "fascism" embraces militarism, the rule of men (vs. law), executive supremacy, big government, activism in defense of the privileged, judicial radicalism, and a paradoxical identity politics where dominant groups (whites, Christians, etc.) trumpet their victimization at the hands of the weak and powerless; arriving at (c) the logical conclusion that today's so-called "conservative movement" resembles the latter rather than the former?

Moral equivalence--by which every whale-sized conservative idiocy is balanced by a guppyish liberal burble--holds that the two claims, Jonah's and the reality-based liberal's, are exactly the same. Anyone who raises questions about the frightening drift of the right to the farther right will be mocked for Goldbergian incoherence. Brilliant! Orwell would be proud. But not as proud as Mussolini.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Exploitation of the Nava Ho

Now that the wingnuts have their own "Tawana Brawley," their mimickery of radical lefty identity politics is finally complete. Conservatives really are such victims. According to (behind a subscription wall), Brit Hume was hyping this case on FOX even after the hoax had been exposed. Does this mean he's the new Sharpton? No wonder the good reverend shows up on FOX so much!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Steroids Post, or Star Wars Post?

In looking at old posts for an earlier entry, I ran across this Golden Oldie from May 2005. Read the "real story of Anakin Skywalker" and tell me that it's not the story of one Barry Lamar Bonds. Really.

Reading Update

As we approach the end of 2007, I thought a final update on how my New Years resolution to read more has gone. The short answer is, not so bad. I'm a few books off a book a week pace--no more than three, although I haven't kept the best records. But as I've observed here before, I've really been reading a book a week, not always serious literature--let me assure you of that.

I've really become a fan of the Harry Bosch novels of Michael Connelly. I've read several: The Black Echo, Concrete Blonde, The Last Coyote, Trunk Music, Angels Flight, City of Bones, Lost Light, The Closers, and Echo Park. (I can't believe that I've read nine of them.) That's in roughly the order of the series, I think (w/o checking). If you like noir-ish hard-boiled detective fiction, then you'd like these.

If you want a Connelly recommendation, read a few of the "basic texts"--Black Echo is the first, and Concrete Blonde is heavy on backstory--and then dive into the best ones, which are Last Coyote and Lost Light, so far, in my opinion. I think you need to know Bosch the character before reading the ones about him as opposed to solving the mystery. Lost Light may be the perfect noir novel. Every fact in the story, every "clue," is connected to the underlying mystery by the end. And it has a post-9/11 plot angle, too.

I've also read some contemporary fiction (The Ministry of Special Cases, Middlesex), some current affairs stuff, Moneyball (finally!), some other detective fiction (including quite a bit of Pelecanos, although some of his later stuff gets a little repetitive), some horror (Pet Sematary is the scariest Stephen King, no? and I Am Legend). If I had better notes, I would be better able to report on this.

Speaking of Connelly, though, I should add that I finally saw the one film adaptation of his work, Blood Work, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Earlier Eastwood posts here, here, here, and here. (Those posts date back to when I actually took this blogging thing seriously and wrote actual reviews of stuff. Hmm.) As those posts attest, I am a pretty big Eastwood fan, and I think he's a better director than actor. (Actually, I think he's a great actor when he directs himself--and he may be the one human being of whom that's true.) But here's a film that blends a plot by one of my current favorite authors, starring and directed by one of my film faves . . . and I really liked it. Didn't love it, but really liked it. A solid outing, no doubt. Btw, haven't read the book Blood Work, although it's clearly a Connelly book. The plot is really complex, but the underlying mystery turns out not to be that mysterious, once the truth is revealed.

J.M.W. Turner at National Gallery

Finally made it down to see this exhibit at the National Gallery today. I have to say that, going in, I didn't know much about Turner's work and even less about his life. One member of the group I attended with asked me, at the museum, when Turner lived (as in, what era), which assured me that other highly educated folks don't know much about him, either. Link. So maybe if you knew a lot going in, the show wouldn't be quite so amazing.

Probably my favorite piece--and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, as it's the painting on the exhibition poster--is "Odysseus Deriding Polyphemus" (link). But if you follow the link, let me tell you that the actual painting is much more colorful and textured than the reproductions (and for some reason, that link was the best one I could find, and it's a crappy link). The real thing is astounding in person.

I'm planning to see the Hopper show at the East building before it closes (next month). I've heard really great things about it, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The End of the Steroids Era

Isn't the Mitchell Report pretty anti-climactic? I mean, Bonds, Clemens, blah blah blah.

My question is, when did "the steroids era" begin? Or, to put things a little differently, when was the last non-steroidal summer?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jesus Land

His truth is marching least in the hearts of 372 members of Congress.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fair Tax Musings

I know it's been weeks since I wrote a real post. No good excuses. Just lazy, I guess. But ninophile posts on the Fair Tax proposal, with some valid concerns about transitioning to the fair tax, at a minimum. Which actually got me thinking . . . that and the Huckabee "surge." Huckabee is an advocate of a plan similar to that in the Boortz book--replace the Internal Revenue Code with a 23% sales tax.

I may be one of the most "objective" people in the world on this point, as my spouse and I get almost, exactly zero tax deductions or tax credits. No kids, no mortgage, I'm too cheap to make charitable contributions, and so on. I guess we pay DC taxes, and so we deduct those. But we pay pretty much a flat tax right now--not always, but for a few years. It does mean that our taxes are simpler than they used to be--don't ever live in two different states, as a couple, and then sell a house and move in the same year . . . but that's more a federalism problem than a IRS problem.

So I don't benefit from the complexities of the tax code. No carve-outs or tax credits for folks like me. (Why not? Oh, yeah, no lobbyists.)

Ninophile makes the excellent point that there's no principled argument against simplifying the tax code. I.e., all else equal, no one can argue that complexity per se is a virtue. And complexity comes with steep costs. So economically, there's probably a great case for this, too.

Here's my thought on tax code simplification. I think that, historically, we started out with something very close to a flat tax on incomes (incomes above a certain point, that is). I'm sure that that was simple. But then someone came up with a great idea--some income was spent in a socially valuable way, and that should be shielded from tax liability. It could have been capital gains ("double taxation"!) or something else (home mortgage interest deduction, charitable contributions). Once that argument worked once, it worked again, and again, and again, and so on, until we had . . . the present Internal Revenue Code.

So a fair, flatter tax on incomes--maybe we should say wages, because I guess it excludes investment income (?)--might take us back to a simpler system . . . for a short time. But the deductions will make their way back, slowly, but surely.

How to (effectively) stop Congress from complexifying a simplified system?

I'm not sure there's a good answer for this. Because, in general, both parties want to shield certain forms of income from taxation. Both parties want to encourage some kind of behaviors, and tax others. This is a bipartisan problem (or virtue).

So, even if we start with the (reasonable) assumption that a simplified tax system would be better, it would be a short time before the system became more complex (the last time we had major tax reform in the U.S. was 1986, just over 20 years ago). And then the same issues would crop up.

So, given the likelihood that tax simplification would cause some major disruptions, and lead us to incur major transition costs, it's hard for me to conclude that a major overhaul of the sort involved in a 23% sales tax is a good idea. That's setting aside the actual level of the sales tax needed, or the issue of rebates for low-income folks. So this one looks like a non-starter to me. Which is not to say that the present situation is "optimal."

Irony of the Week

Just yesterday I was thinking about how amazingly consistent bloggers like Josh Marshall and Juan Cole are. Day in and day out they write so many quality posts with only minor missteps once in a while. And then, irony of irony, Juan Cole laid this big egg today. I suppose it's a sign that he has clay feet after all.

Dire Straits

Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it,
You make them subprime loans to the poor,
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it,
Sellin’ NINJA loans to someone with a low credit score.
Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb,
Maybe get a default on a little 3-bedroom,
Maybe get a default on a property that’s plumb.

We gotta buy mortgages country wide from lending trees,
Bundle them and issue them with bonds,
We gotta divide them into tranches
We gotta collect our big fees.

See the mortgage broker with the Rolex and the Hummer?
Yeah buddy that's his corporate plane in the air,
That mortgage broker got his own Florida condo,
That mortgage broker he's millionaire.

We gotta buy mortgages country wide from the lending trees,
Bundle them and issue them with bonds,
We gotta chop them up into tranches
We gotta collect our big fees.

I shoulda learned to be a home closer,
I shoulda learned to sell in them slums,
Look at that mama, she lost her house,
Man we could have some fun.
And he's, he’s on the beach, what's that? Hawaiian noises?
Someone bangin' on the bongoes like a chimpanzee,
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Sellin’ NINJA loans to someone with a low credit score.

For the background behind this ditty, see here, here, and here.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Semester's Almost Over

Not news to most of you, I know. But maybe more frequent postings in the near future.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Look Out, AL

Tigers make one big trade. Let's see how this works out.